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Mixed day for hosts while Saina bags Indonesia hat-trick

What a final day it turned out to be! The 2012 Djarum Indonesia Open had the best of everything badminton had to offer: a lustily cheering crowd that set the ambience, and five top-quality encounters, all going to three games and over an hour.

Simon Santoso took one for the home crowd while Saina Nehwal bag her hat-trick of Indonesia Open titles after pulling off a gritty victory against the Chinese juggernaut called Li Xuerui.

World No. 3 Xuerui, who was on a hot 30-match winning streak, was finally stopped by the world No. 5 from India. It was her first loss since January and prevented her from winning her fifth straight singles title.

Earlier in the day, World No. 2 pair Lee Yong Dae / Jung Jae Sung added another Superseries title to their collection at the expense of Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (pictured right) of Denmark; Wang Xiaoli/ Yu Yang justified their top seeding by overcoming compatriots Qing Tian / Zhao Yunlei.

And in the last match of the day, Thai veterans Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam overturned their recent defeats against third seeds Tontowi Ahmad / Lilyana Natsir.

The results meant that the five gold medalists came from different countries. This is the first OSIM BWF World Superseries event since Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open in November 2010 that has five different countries winning the five titles.

Though Saina, who may consider Indonesia her second home, once again won the crowd over with her fighting spirit all week. Despite the four-and-a-half hours Saina had spent on court in her last four matches, she showed no sign of physical exhaustion, and that by itself was quite remarkable, for she had arrived in Jakarta after a title win in Thailand last week.

It was magnificent badminton – both players probing the other for openings, firing smashes, and returning from near-impossible situations. In the opener, Xuerui seemed assured against Saina, as she whipped winners on either flank and used her long reach to return Saina’s probing strokes. The first game was over in just 15 minutes as the Indian felt the heat of Xuerui’s firepower.

Xuerui had two match points in the second game, but Saina saved both and equaled at a set apiece. The third game was just as tense, and eventually India’s Olympic medal-hopeful earned the decisive advantage at 19-16. Xuerui made a last-ditch attempt, until Saina closed it out at 21-19, capping one of her career’s finest campaigns.

“It was really, really tough,” said Saina (pictured left) after winning it 13-21 22-20 21-19. “I love the crowd, I love Indonesia. I feel like a champion when I step on to the court here. This is my favourite place. I will come back again and again.”

In the Simon Santoso-Du Pengyu (pictured right) showdown, while both players have hovered around the top-ten without embellishing their careers with big individual titles, the match turned out to be a treat as it was a clash between two different styles.

Santoso, flowing around the court like liquid metal, his shots all grace and precision, was up against a bundle of bouncing energy, Du Pengyu.

The Indonesian made a bunny out of Pengyu to begin with, outfoxing him with his courtcraft and flicks of wrist, and was up 17-8 and 20-13. The Chinese continued with that momentum to take the second game 21-13, but eventually, Santoso’s presence of mind and precision of stroke-making made the difference, as he pulled ahead and clinched the match 21-11 for only his second Superseries title.

Perhaps the biggest upset on the final day was in the mixed doubles where the only unseeded finalists Prapakamol / Thoungthongkam broke the hearts of the vociferous home crowd by defeating third seeds Ahmad / Natsir (pictured left) 21-17 17-21 21-13 in 73 minutes. The Thai veterans have defeated the eighth seeds Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying and top seeds Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei enroute to the final.

“This was actually a tougher match than our quarter-final’s win over the top seeds”, said Thoungthongkam. “The Chinese are only strong and fast, but the Indonesians have very good wristwork and that makes it harder to play against them. We will now return to Thailand and continue our practice for the Olympic Games.”

The OSIM BWF World Superseries will now head to Singapore next week for the 6th stop of the 2012 season.

Results of the finals of the 2012 Djarum Indonesia Open can be found here.

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